HCA NEWS The Ugly Duckling: The European Favorite

Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the ugly duckling who becomes a beautiful swan is, by all accounts, the most popular fairy tale in Europe.

By Mikkel Stjernberg - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 14 May 2003

The fairy tale "The Ugly Duckling" has a special place in the hearts of Europeans. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense has put together a small, quite unscientific study, demonstrating that Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the less than beautiful duckling, who must endure a lot of unpleasant things in the farmyard before discovering himself to be a big, beautiful swan, is without doubt the most published fairy tale in Europe.

"It is important to stress that this survey is not scientific, but it still provides a good sense of which fairy tale readers of Hans Christian Andersen prefer," says museum keeper for the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, Ane Grum-Schwensen.

The survey is based on a tally of which fairy tales have been published most often, respectively, in Russian, French, German and Dutch, which - in addition to English and Danish - are the four predominant European languages in which Hans Christian Andersen has been published.

"The Ugly Duckling" has been published 563 times in these four languages from first publication until 1994. Unfortunately, the tally for publications in English is not available, but Ane Grum-Schwensen reports that English is a major publication language as far as Hans Christian Andersen is concerned and that it is on equal footing with German.

Indeed, the number of occasions Hans Christian Andersen's works have been published in German exceeds the other languages by more than three times. The fairy tale has been published all of 318 times in German, as opposed to 83 times in French, 82 times in Russian and 80 in Dutch.

"It is very difficult to determine exactly what the runners-up are, but there is no doubt that "The Ugly Duckling" is number one in Europe," Ane Grum-Schwensen says.

Nevertheless, it is possible to put together an unscientific top ten list of the most published Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales in Europe, with the reservation that the order is arbitrary - except for first place.

The top list is:

1. "The Ugly Duckling"
2. "The Nightingale"
3. "Thumbellina"
4. "The Princess and the Pea"
5. "The Steadfast Tin Soldier"
6. "The Tinder Box"
7. "The Emperor's New Clothes"
8. "The Swineherd"
9. "The Little Matchstick Girl"
10. "The Wild Swans"

The list has been collected by Museum Assistent Solveig B. Ottosen at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense.